The Saudi riyal is the official form of currency of Saudi Arabia and has been since the country came into being. The currency is abbreviated SR. Here is a brief history of the Saudi riyal as well as a description of its banknotes and coinage.
A Brief History
The word “riyal” comes from the Spanish real, which was one of the main currencies of the Mediterranean region during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. The riyal has been used as a form of currency in Saudi Arabia since before its name change from the Kingdom of Hejaz in 1925. In Hejaz, the currency was originally based on the Ottoman 20 kuruş coin and was hence divided into 20 subunits, called qirsh. This division, however, soon became 22 qirsh to 1 riyal. In 1925, coins of ¼, ½, and 1 qirsh were introduced, still under the name the Kingdom of Hejaz. Then in 1927 came coins of ¼, ½, and 1 riyal. These three riyal coins were replaced in 1935, however, when the first coins minted as currency of Saudi Arabia were introduced. Then in 1937 the three ¼, ½, and 1 qirsh coins were replaced by Saudi Arabian equivalents. In 1946, additional 2 and 4 kirsh coins came into circulation.
In 1960, the riyal as once again divided into 20 qirsh, but in 1963 the halala was introduced. A halala is equal to 1/100 of a riyal and is now the official subunit of the riyal.
Saudi riyal banknotes began as Haj Pilgrim Receipts meant to be used by pilgrims who exchanged foreign currency for them. These receipts were first introduced by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) in 1953 in 10 riyal denominations. A 1 riyal receipt followed in 1954, and a 5 riyal receipt followed in 1956. Because these receipts resembled banknotes, they became widely accepted in Saudi Arabia and eventually began to replace silver riyal coins in large transactions. So in 1961, the Monetary Agency began issuing banknotes in 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 riyal denominations, and the Pilgrim Receipts were withdrawn in 1965. Currently, banknotes come in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200, and 500 riyal denominations, with the obverses since 2007 featuring the face of King Abdullah (save for the 500 riyal note, which features the face of King Abdulaziz Al Saud.) The reverses of Saudi riyal banknotes feature prominent landscape and historical sites.
Saudi riyal coins currently come in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 halala. They are made from a cupro-nickel alloy and are also inscribed with their value in qirsh, as the halala was introduced as recently as 1963.
The Saudi Riyal is currently pegged to the US dollar at a rate of 1 USD = 3.75 SR.